October 13, 2019


Professor Sandler at the podium; Simha and Sara Lainer (right) with Profesor EcksteinWhen Professor Shmuel Sandler was named first incumbent of the Lainer Chair in Democracy and Civility at Bar-Ilan University, he faced an immediate semantic problem.

“There is no word for ‘civility’ in Hebrew,” he said. “It’s an Anglo-Saxon word.”

The Hebrew word in the Lainer Chair’s title is sovlanut, which corresponds to “tolerance,” used in a civic context. But the semantics are less important than the origin and goals of the endowed professorship.

It started with the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by Bar-Ilan student Yigal Amir.

The murder shook Israel and the world, but it was felt with particularly agonizing force at Bar-Ilan University, whose mission includes “teaching the compelling ethics of Jewish heritage” and “bridging the gap between religious and secular Jews.”

Some have said that it is the latter, not the Arabs, that represents the most serious conflict facing Israel. At least Sara and Simha Lainer were sufficiently shaken to suggest and endow the Chair for the university.

“We had, earlier, sponsored a dialogue between Israeli settlers and doves, and were thinking about these problems. But, obviously, the assassination gave us the impetus to do more,” said Sandler, who took time out from his recent speaking tour of the United States to speak with The Journal.

The most intractable problem he will address is the chasm between the Orthodox and secular segments of Israeli society, said Sandler, a political scientist with a doctorate from Johns Hopkins University.

“These are really two separate people, who go to different schools, have different diets, who label each other ‘Khomeinists’ and ‘non-Jews,'” Sandler said.

About the only places where the two cultures commingle are in the Israeli army and at Bar-Ilan, whose student body is 60 percent secular and 40 percent Orthodox.

Sandler, an observant Jew himself, thinks that the term “secular,” as applied in Israel, is, in any case, a misnomer.

“Secularists, in the sense of atheists or agnostics, make up 20 percent of Israel’s population,” he said. “The truly Orthodox also represent 20 percent. But the remaining 60 percent fall somewhere in between.”

Taking issue with a more rigid Orthodox viewpoint, Sandler points out that “Judaism has always had pluralism, even within Orthodoxy. The followers of Shammai and Hillel had bitter disputes, but they married each other. It is only now that some are trying to make Judaism so uniform.”

Currently, Sandler has embarked on one program and is working on a number of future projects in which he plans to collaborate with the Anti-Defamation League.

He is now holding weekly meetings, bringing together high school teachers from Israeli religious and secular schools for lectures and group discussions on “Jewish Values and Democracy.”

The most important aspect of this effort, he believes, is the very fact that teachers from the two separate school systems get together in the same classroom.

The ADL in Vienna

The Jewish Journal was invited to a “coupe de champagne” at the home of Austrian Consul General Werner Brandstetter to “salute the opening of an office of the Anti-Defamation League in Vienna.”

There we met the local consuls general of the Czech Republic and Hungary, as well as Israel’s Uri Palti. It was all very pleasant and celebratory, with just a whiff of Washington thrown in.

But there was a serious side as well. Just a few days after the get-together, visiting ADL international affairs director Ken Jacobson pointed to growing anti-Semitism, ethnic friction and xenophobia in both Eastern and Western Europe. Not so celebratory that.

To combat these trends, the ADL will adapt its prejudice-reduction program, “A World of Difference,” to its new region. The program has already been introduced in five German cities and across the United States.

Heading the Vienna operation is veteran journalist Marta S. Halpert. The ADL’s only other European station, at the Vatican, is also run by a journalist — Lisa Palmeri-Billig.

The perspicacious choice of the two journalists obviously demonstrates the ADL honchos’ high regards for the intelligence, astuteness and complete fairness of the Fourth Estate. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Writer

Going After Arafat’s &’009;&’009;Nobel Prize

F or a while, after the famous handshake with the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Yasser Arafat enjoyed a summer honeymoon in the U.S. Peace, or at least the process, was in the air and as Peace Now advocates emphasized, Arafat was now Israel’s peace partner. But times change. There is a new Israeli prime minister, peace is stalled, and Arafat and his team are being looked at whole today.

Enter Rabbi Marvin Hier and the Simon Wiesenthal Center. The SWC is launching an international campaign aimed at stripping Yasser Arafat of the Nobel Peace Prize he won in 1994.

Arafat shared the award with then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and then-Foreign Minister Shimon Peres for their joint efforts toward Middle East peace through the Oslo accords.

“The recent policy of Arafat’s Palestinian Authority in issuing a death sentence against anyone selling Palestinian land to a Jew — a decision embraced by Arafat himself — makes a mockery of the Nobel Peace Prize conferred upon him,” Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Wiesenthal Center, wrote to Francis Sejerstedt, chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee.

In urging the Nobel committee to rescind the award to Arafat, Hier noted that “sanctioning the murder without trial of individuals…is a form of behavior reminiscent of the Dark Ages and reeks of the anti-Semitism invoked by the Nazis.”

The honeymoon with Arafat, such as it was, seems to be over.

“Guest conducting” at Symphony in the GlenA Summer Symphony

Bring the kids, a blanket and picnic lunch to Griffith Park this Sunday, June 22 for an outdoor , musical celebration of the summer solstice. In a grassy glen surrounded by trees and flying frisbees, a concert of classical music will be performed from 3 to 5 p.m. by Symphony in the Glen, a non-profit organization that has been staging free classical music concerts in the city’s parks since 1994.

The concert’s orchestra, an assemblage of musicians from the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Hollywood Bowl and other area professional ensembles, will begin appropriately enough with Prokofiev’s Summer Day (A Children’s Suite). Other highlights of the program include Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 (Italian) and a rousing Sousa march that will be “guest conducted” by six children whose names will be picked from a drawing that afternoon.

The founder and creative force behind Symphony in the Glen is Arthur B. Rubinstein — conductor, USC music professor and an award-winning composer of countless film and television scores. His own support, as well as that of sponsors like the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, McDonnell Douglas and KKGO-FM makes it possible for such a large-scale event to be free for everyone — something Rubinstein regards as critical if these concerts are to reach all segments of the public, particularly young children. In lieu of admission, concertgoers are asked to bring a canned food donation to be distributed by the Salvation Army Family Services Division. Such efforts make Symphony in the Glen concerts a joyful mix of culture, community and civic virtue.

Rubenstein’s own passion for music began early. His mother filled his childhood home with classical music. By the tender age of 15, he had already conducted his first orchestra. His grandfather, fabled clarinetist Naftule Brandwein, is considered one of the giants of klezmer music.

Visitors who get to Griffith Park before the 3 p.m. performance will be in for a pre-concert treat. From 1:30 -2:30 p.m., Rubenstein will gather up a group of young children for his “Kids Konducting Klass” in order to share with them his own musical tips and love of music. Each child will receive a free coloring book that explores the basics of conducting and musical notes. At 2:30, the audience will be treated to impromtu chamber music as a sort of casual interim concert until everyone is settled and ready to begin. The park, a picnic, Prokofiev… is there a better way to begin the summer? — Diane Arieff Zaga, Arts Editor

Parking is free and shuttles to the handicap-accessible concert site are available. For directins and program information, call (213) 955-6976.